Today is the first day of a joint trial for three teenagers facing felony murder charges, starting with jury selection in Elkhart's Circuit Court.
Blake Layman, 17; Levi Sparks, 18; and Anthony Sharp, 19, are facing up to 65 years in prison if convicted.
For those who are not familiar with the case, here's a quick summary of the events, in chronological order, that led to the trial today:
The initial report (Oct. 3, 2012) :
Blake Layman, Jose Quiroz, Levi Sparks, Anthony Sharp and Danzele Johnson allegedly attempted to break into a house at 1919 Frances Ave., Elkhart. Rodney Scott, the homeowner, was sleeping in the second floor of his home when he heard noise downstairs. He called 911 and took his handgun as he started to walk down the stairs. When he saw strangers moving about in the first floor of his house, he fired shots, hitting Johnson, 21, and Layman. Layman was taken to the hospital and later arrested. Johnson died at the scene.
(For stories about the initial reports, click here and here.)
Layman and Quiroz had probable cause hearings before any charges were filed:
The charges (Oct. 9, 2012) :
In a press conference, Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, Jr., said his office had charged all four people involved in the Oct. 3 break-in with felony murder. Scott was not charged because it was determined he was acting in self-defense. Sparks, Sharp and Quiroz, 17, were arrested before and shortly after the press conference.
Here's the live coverage we had from the press conference:
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill Jr. called a press conference Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, to discuss the circumstances of a homeowner shooting to death an intruder at his Elkhart home last week. Reporter Sharon Hernandez is covering this event on Twitter.
But why were the teens charged with murder?
In the State of Indiana, person committing a felony can be charged with felony murder if another person dies during the commission of the crime, even if the person that died was a co-conspirator.
The description of the offense can be found under Indiana Code 35-42-1-1 (2)
Layman hired Mark Doty, an attorney who works in Elkhart.
Sparks hired Vincent Campiti, an attorney from South Bend.
Quiroz was appointed Peter Todd, from the public defender's office.
Sharp was appointed Jeff Majerek, from the public defender's office.
Quiroz pleads guilty (Nov. 15, 2012) :
Jose Quiroz pleaded guilty to felony murder about a month after his charge was filed. He received a sentence of 45 years in prison and 10 years on probation. During his plea hearing, Quiroz gave up some details about the attempted break-in, including Layman, Sparks and Sharp in his description of the incident.
During his sentencing hearing, Dec. 13, 2012, Quiroz told the court he wanted to withdraw his plea. But the judge explained to Quiroz he had already accepted the plea. He continued the sentencing hearing.
The protests (Oct. 9 - present) :
The friends and family of the teens facing the charges created posters and organized rallies asking the prosecutor to drop the felony murder charges. They argued that although the teens had committed a crime, they never intended to kill anyone.
(To read some of our coverage on rallies organized by families click here, here and here.)
The trial status conference (Aug. 15, 2013) :
Five days before the trial, Doty filed a motion requesting a separate trial for his client. Majerek and Campiti joined in the request during the trial status conference for their clients. The judge denied the request, saying all three defendants had the same defense and therefore it was not necessary to have three separate trials.